“Well, maybe I’ll just hang up here in the air for a while…”
(Michael Jordan; “Rare Air”– the phrase was used as the title of a short volume by Michael Jordan, with photographs by Walter Iooss)
I miss Daniel Shorr. A newsman for over 60 years, he was active on NPR practically right up to the week of his death. (He died in the summer of 2010 at the age of 93). For example, I would love to hear one of his well-written, comprehensive, decades-honed-insights commentaries on this year’s Republican Presidential race. His commentaries would speak to the current situation of the hour with a remembrance of something “similar,” or at least something complementary, from some crisis or hot spot or tense situation going back through the decades, at times all the way back to well before I was even born.
There is no way for someone who “reads” the history to have quite the perspective of someone who “lived” the history. (I miss Andy Rooney for the same reasons).
Yes, Daniel Shorr was the rarest of the rarest of the rare find in the talent department.
I thought of Mr. Shorr as I worked on my synopsis of The Rare Find, my book selection for next week’s First Friday Book Synopsis. (Register for our event here). In The Rare Find: Spotting Exceptional Talent Before Everyone Else, George Anders observes that after all the years we’ve spent trying to find the secrets of spotting, hiring, and developing genuine talent at work, we haven’t gotten all that much better at it. Here’s a taste from his book:
“Over the past few decades, we as a society have made talent spotting vastly more sophisticated than it ever was before.”
“In fact, it’s arguable now that our ability to identify great people has deteriorated. We have created so much data that we’re drowning in it… Trying to forecast what people might achieve is a bigger mystery than ever.
You want an example: consider this profile. Here’s a guy who needs to shower more often. His eating habits; his personal interaction habits; his seemingly endless lack of tact negatively impacts practically everyone in his path. He was, at times, unbelievably rude to practically everyone around him. So – would you hire Mr. Steve Jobs? You’d be a fool not to. But, how in the world do you “spot” this talent?
(The opposite is also often quite true. There are countless “sure things,” examples of “this man/woman is going to be great in this job” failures who crash and burn. How do we get it so wrong?)
I think genuine talent has to be some mix of the following:
Competence/raw ability; plus “soft skills,” (“getting along” skills); plus work ethic; plus the ability to focus; plus a wide array of experiences (many so very far from the “scope” of “this particular job”); plus character/credibility (old-fashioned “ethos”); plus…
Let’s go back to Daniel Shorr as a model. (Some of this is consistent with the observations in Anders book). He had the work ethic; he had the wide array of experience, and far-afield experiences; he was beloved by his colleagues at NPR (so he had some of those soft skills); you could trust him to speak truthfully, and substantively… A rare find!
There may be no job close to as important as this job: who do I choose to hire? And, that question is much wider than just “who do I hire at work?’ It is also, “who do I hire as my surgeon?”; and, “who do I hire as my financial advisor?”; and, “who do I hire as my coach, my mentor?”; and, how about, “who do I hire as the cruise ship Captain for the cruise that I take for my vacation?”; and “who do I hire as my next President of these United States?”
Finding that rare find. It’s worth pursuing with diligence and focus. And, we really do need to get better at it, don’t we?